WINDBER, Pa. – The Windber Area High School seniors were told to “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams” at Monday’s graduation ceremony.

School board President Michael Betcher shared the Henry David Thoreau quote when providing his final thoughts with the class of 2023 at Windber Stadium.

“I think the impact this class has had will last for years,” he said.

Although the event was a sad affair because it meant the end of the students’ high school careers, Betcher said it was happy as well because he knew the “future holds great things for this group.”

The school director was one of several speakers who gave the graduates a fond sendoff, wishing them luck in their next adventure and telling the group that there’s good waiting for them beyond Windber’s hallowed halls.

Kimberly Moore, high school principal, said it was a true honor to serve in that position, and advised the students to always choose kindness and consider the impact their decisions have on others.

Class president Logan Hunter told his peers that as they graduate with the weight of the world on their shoulders and take everything they’ve ever learned at their now-alma mater, the possibilities of life are endless.

“It’s bittersweet,” Meleiah Dusack said. “That’s definitely the best word to describe it.”

Although the senior was emotional about leaving high school, she was ready to move on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her friend, Alexis James, felt the same way.

“It doesn’t feel real,” she said of graduation.

She’s going to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown to studying nursing.

Monday’s ceremony was held at the stadium under a near cloudless sky while the sun set.

Some graduates hung around the entrance before the festivities, watching for family members to greet before moving toward the concession stand, where their classmates were waiting for the event to begin.

On the scoreboard, showing all “23s” or “2023” were rotating pictures of the students’ senior photos and baby pictures, while “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day played on a loop.

“It’s kind of weird to think my entire life has led up to this moment,” Brendan Curry said.

He thought the moment would stir up more anxious feelings in him, which was almost disappointing.

Curry’s going to IUP as well to major in biology, so he can eventually become a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Inspired by his own battle with heart disease, Curry thought that as a fitting career.

Heidi Horner and Holly Ott toted bouquets of flowers to give to their daughters, who are cousins, after graduation.

“It’s very emotional for us,” Ott said, choking back tears.

Horner added that it’s overwhelming “to see your baby grow up so fast.”

But the mothers couldn’t be more proud of their daughters’ accomplishments.

“It’s exciting,” Ott said. “The end of one chapter and the beginning of another.”

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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